After the medical examinations have shown that Prince had died because of a self-administrated dose of fentanyl, police started to enhance measures against the spread of the drug.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that was at first used as a surgical analgesia and then continued to be administrated in cancer pain treatment.
In the last years, the medicine began to leak and now it had become a street drug.
Federal lawmakers take into consideration increasing the mandatory prison penalties for fentanyl dealers. Judiciary officials will have a meeting this week trying to find solutions for the increased numbers of deaths caused by K2 and fentanyl.
Police are currently looking into how Prince obtained the drug. Only a small minority of users receive it from pharmaceutical channels. Officers believe that fentanyl is manufactured in Mexico and then brought in the US.
The police investigations created a wave of new information on the subject. Other public health officials started to show that fentanyl analogs were legally shipped from China. It is estimated that the number of analogs is over 30.
“Clever and well-informed drug distribution networks will likely take advantage of the legal loophole and profit by replacing or cutting a highly-regulated drug with this less regulated one,” said John Stogner, a criminologist.
These synthetic analogs are not considered to be outside the law. Some of them can even be ordered on the internet. However, analogs can be very powerful, and the government almost took into consideration weaponizing them.
Far from being an exaggeration, one of fentanyl’s analogs was used by Russian security forces against Chechen terrorists. What started as a rescue mission, later resulted in 115 deaths.
In the 70s, other fentanyl derivates have been used in combination with street heroin. The substance is alpha-methyldentanyl, and it had been created in the same laboratory as fentanyl, but it was soon proven to have no medical benefits. The distribution was limited to California and the Northeast of the country, under the names of „China White” or „Tango&Cash”.
Alpha-methylfentanyl and its related 3-methyl-fentanyl were both outlawed in the US but managed to reappear periodically for more years. One example is the peak in hospitalizations between 1997 and 2004, all caused by fentanyl analogs.
Other synthetic opioids have forced medical professionals to issue public warnings, as some of them were seven times stronger than morphine.
Ever since 1986, President Ronald Reagan forbade the distribution of all controlled substances analogs, but the law omitted the drugs that are not intended for human consumption, and the market flourished again.
One of the main distribution routes is the sell of research chemicals from labs in China to individuals from the US. China already interdicted the export of 116 research substances, but this measure may not be sufficient to stop the distribution of fentanyl and its analogs.
Image Source: Flickr